Woof, Woof – Please Bring My Leash

Summer is a great time to take furry friends out on the trail. Dogs are welcome at most Boulder County Parks & Open Space properties, and a canine companion can certainly increase your enjoyment of the outdoors.

At most parks, dogs are required to be on leash. Have you ever wondered why this is? The on-leash rule is not just a needless regulation; keeping your dog leashed is actually essential to keeping yourself, your dog, wildlife, and fellow park visitors safe and happy.

Dogs On Leash = Safer Dogs

While letting your dog off leash may feel like doing your dog a favor, it actually exposes them to many dangers. Several dogs have drowned in Boulder County parks in recent years. Moreover, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and mountain lions all frequent area parks and can be lethal for dogs. Less deadly natural hazards include ticks, poison ivy, thorns, and water-borne pathogens like giardia (dogs can get it too). A lesser known, but potentially serious or even deadly threat to dogs off leash is foxtail grass. The seeds of this plant are barbed and can work their way into any part of your dog: skin, paws, nose, etc. They do not break down inside the body and can cause serious infection and even death if left untreated. Foxtails are present in the area, and treatment for this painful condition often requires expensive surgery.

Consider the Moose

Hiking with dogs off leash can also lead to danger for humans. Wolves are the historical predators for moose, and moose therefore have a deeply ingrained hatred and fear of all things canine. A moose’s instinct is to charge when it feels threatened, and they have even been known to go out of their way to attack dogs. This, of course, is potentially deadly for Fido, but can also be extremely dangerous for the dog owner. Moose can run up to 35 miles per hour. These 1,000+ pound animals kill more people than bears or mountain lions in Colorado. Hiking with a dog off leash is often the common denominator in moose attacks on people.

Canine Chaos

Hiking with dogs off leash can be dangerous for your fellow park visitors, too. Dogs running off leash can contribute to biking accidents, and horses can be spooked by roaming dogs, increasing the danger for the rider. Further, aside from endangering fellow park visitors, having your dog on leash is a courtesy to other outdoor enthusiasts. While it may be hard to imagine anyone not loving Buster, many park users don’t like dogs or are even afraid of them. Some people may be happy to greet or pet your leash-less friend, but rangers also get countless complaints from park visitors about dogs off leash. Many visitors come to our parks to view wildlife or birds, and dogs off leash can diminish their chances of seeing these critters.

Speaking of wildlife, dogs off leash can make life difficult for animals. Prey species like deer or elk register dogs as predators, and a dog’s presence off leash can be traumatic for these animals. On the other hand, dogs off leash can also be detrimental for predators, particularly other canines like coyotes or foxes. These species are highly territorial, and a dog off leash can be viewed as a territorial threat. Coyotes in particular have been known to consider dogs competitors or even potential mates. Remember that while open space is a great retreat for you and your dog, it also functions as a refuge for wildlife.

Please enjoy Boulder County Parks & Open Space with your four-legged friend this summer, but remember your leash!